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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
October 9, 2011
Q. Just curious, didn't get a chance to talk about Michael Floyd on punt return yesterday, not that it mattered all that much because there wasn't much punting. What prompted you to put him back there, and is that something that you can continue to do going forward?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, you know I think we have talked about wanting to get a playmaker out there, and John certainly can handle the ball for us, but lacks that big-play ability.
Mike actually came to me and said, "Coach, I'll do it. Give me a shot at it." We worked hard -- and this is the great thing about Mike, he stayed after practice. Here is a guy who is one of the best receivers in the country and spent probably, you know, more time than I can remember a guy staying after practice just fielding punts so he can go in there and do it.
Q. I thought, and maybe I was hearing things, but you sort of almost downplayed the idea, saying it was almost too late to go in, to put him back there a couple of weeks ago, or am I imagining things.
COACH KELLY: No, you're not. Look, a lot of this has been precipitated by our need to jump start that unit, and you know, Mike saw that. As we talked about it in every special teams meeting, which he's part of, I think he finally said you know what, I can do this, but I've never done it before. We were not looking down that road with Mike because he had never done it before, but he's such an exceptional athlete and was committed to doing it, and I think that's obviously a game changer when it comes to that.
Q. How have your guys -- we keep talking about the mentality that they are bringing week-to-week, bottom line, if you look at the big picture, it's going to have to be nine or ten wins and that's a long streak for you guys to go on to get where you wanted to be in the BCS. How have they managed to both stay in the present but managed to realize how far they have to go to get to where they want to go, if you know what I mean?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, we have said, listen, if we want to make the playoffs, here is what we have to do, and that is win each and every week. So we effectively said, listen, let's get into the top 14 in the country, and if you get into the top 14, you're in the playoffs and that means you've got to win a lot of games.
They know what they need to do and they know what kind of focus and attention they need when you're in a must-win situation each week. That's kind of how we approach it is that we focus solely on it week-to-week, and every game for us is a playoff game.
Q. Green jerseys for the USC game?
COACH KELLY: I didn't know we had green jerseys. If we did, we would think about it.
Q. Wondered, sounds like you are going to get some rest during the bye week, but wonder what your emphasis is going to be beyond that in terms of work.
COACH KELLY: We'll lift on Monday. Tuesday, we will articulate a lot, 11-on-11, our offense against the defense with some similar looks to USC without formulating a particular game plan. Just to keep our guys moving at a fast pace. Wednesday we'll do the same but in a shorter format.
So Tuesday and Wednesday of this coming week, we'll have an eye towards USC. We'll unveil our game plan on Monday with that being a bonus day for us, and that will be the official USC full-blown practice.
Q. Tuitt was very effective for you when he was in there essentially playing the nose guard position. Given the fact that you have Lynch and Hounshell and Ethan Johnson the rest of this year and Capra (ph) next year, is Stephon's future, at least near future, looking more as a nose guard than a defensive end?
COACH KELLY: He's got incredible versatility. If we are giving out helmet stickers, Stephon Tuitt gets it. Him and Fleming was outstanding. Tuitt, he was as good as Aaron Lynch has been at times. Tuitt showed that kind of play against Air Force. He was outstanding.
He's got great versatility. He can play inside and outside and he's just a rare combination where Aaron is more suited on the outside. Tuitt can play both inside and out just because of his length and his athletic ability.
Q. And how would you rate Hounshell and Lynch playing the position that they played yesterday for you?
COACH KELLY: Hounshell played 38 plays for us and played very, very well in his first college appearance.
He is going to play this year for us. He showed that he's a football player. So we were really excited about watching the film this morning about his play. Aaron is better suited outside. He battled inside but he's much better on the edge of our defense.
Q. You know, talking to you after the game, I think you felt pretty good about the defense and that it was a 59-19 game, really when the benches kind of emptied and so forth. Your defense has been so dominant in the last nine or ten games in terms of yards. How do feel about the yards? Do they feel the same way you do after having that streak of dominance?
COACH KELLY: Oh, yeah. Option football is about keeping the points down, and that mentality is what we talked about, any time we now enter a week where we are preparing against option, yards have nothing to do with the outcome. It's keeping the points down. And quite frankly if we don't jump off-side on fourth and one and if we don't give up a fake punt, we are even lower in the points.
So we were really pleased with keeping the points down. Give credit to Air Force; they are a very good offensive football team. Something they did in this game they had not done a lot during the year was they tempo-ed very, very well. Took us awhile to settle in but we settled in nicely. We were pleased and our players know when they play option football is to minimize the big play and keep the points down.
Q. Not sure if you've ever had a team where the media and the fans obsess about your backup quarterbacks as much as this one, but with Andrew being the guy yesterday, does this lean maybe towards you not using Everett this year?
COACH KELLY: I think you guys can figure out what the rotation is going to be at this point.
Q. You're giving us that much credit?
COACH KELLY: You know what I would like to say but I'm not going to say it. (Laughing).
Q. I know the changes you made with the assistant coaches in terms of their responsibilities this year were not all that drastic but at the midway now, can you look back and see how those changes have affected where you are now and if they have worked well for you, and are there any issues with some of those assignments right now?
COACH KELLY: No, because I've got a great group of coaches and teachers. Obviously Kerry Cooks and Chuck Martin are coordinating the back end of our defense and they work so well together. I think that's been -- obviously to have two talented coaches in the back end of your defense like that is almost a luxury. So we are very pleased in that respect.
And then on the offensive side of ball we have Warinner who has done a great job of putting together the run game. I think that's pretty evident. I think we have had back-to-back over 250 yards rushing per game. You start doing that with what we can do offensively, we are very difficult to defend.
So I think at both instances, those assignments internally have strengthened our staff.
Q. As far as yesterday's concerned, I think you addressed this earlier in the week, but how do you prepare for the liberal use of cut clocks that you're going to see and keeping guys healthy and did everyone get away fairly clean yesterday?
COACH KELLY: Yes, yes. You know, there was a couple of what we have considered to be unnecessary, but they were called. But no, we got out of it clean. Our guys didn't wear knee braces. We talked about attacking and we did a very good job in making sure that our guys protected themselves but played aggressively.
Q. Is there anybody new that will be limited this week or are you good to go?
COACH KELLY: We'll protect some guys. Manti has had a little bit of an ankle and we'll protect him this week. Of course Ethan Johnson still moving forward and progressing but he'll be protected this week. Other than that, we'll get two pretty good days in and then give them about three days off.
Q. You did such a great job of containing Tim Jefferson. Was that the idea going in, contain him and get the football out of his hands?
COACH KELLY: Relative to Jefferson and how he fits in their offense, it's pretty clear for us that the biggest thing for them is they are going to read out their triple, and we wanted the ball pitched, as you know. So part of your plan is to take it away inside out, and we forced the ball to be pitched. And I think that that's pretty much most philosophies as it relates to the triple.
When he threw the football, you know, he's pretty good at it. But when you have such a big point differential and we know he's going to throw it, you know, that takes away a little of his effectiveness. Tim, in a sense, we played the triple out from an inside-out position and then when he had to throw it, we had a pretty good idea. I think that takes away a little bit of his effectiveness.
Q. In addition to playing a little more physical offense what other things you've adjusted since the Navy game last year?
COACH KELLY: Well, everybody seems to want to play on-balance against us, so that's the flavor. So adjusting all of the responsibilities to on-balance. As you know, the Navy game was an on-balanced offensive line that they had never shown before and we struggled adjusting to that.
Now everybody wants to run on balance against us in the option game. Army did it. Air Force is doing it. And I think those are the adjustments. We made some really good adjustments on the field and on the sideline and went back to some techniques we had used before, and I think more than anything else, it's just being more familiar and more comfortable with option football.
Q. I was going to ask that. Now that you've played all three academies in an 11- or 12-game span, you must feel more confident in your approach against these style of teams.
COACH KELLY: It's interesting, we had this big binder, and it's truly a three-ring binder, and we just keep adding to it in terms of what we are going to see. We saw a lot of unorthodox things, again, with Air Force. For instance they went tempo, no-huddle -- no huddle, but they went tempo like they had never gone before, and so we could not check into some things. Just more familiarity with what option teams want to do against us; it just adds to the three-ring binder for us.
Q. You are going to wait to give them the full-plan against USC; you want to see them play against Cal on Thursday before you give it all to them?
COACH KELLY: No, we want to keep within our normal pattern. I don't like to introduce too much too early. What we'll try to do is we'll take their base runs and passes, and their base defenses, and we'll run them ourselves.
So for example, if they run some two-by-two combination routes, I'm sure I've got a couple of those in my offense that we'll run against our defense without going into a scout team situation and a demo squad. We are going to stay away from doing that and really go 11-on-11 so we get some good speed work. That's what I'm referring to more so than going scout team this week.
Q. You said something interesting after the game about Tommy being improved because Andrew was playing, which I think is kind of interesting in the sense that Tommy would benefit from not getting all of the snaps. Can you expand on that, how Andrew playing helps Tommy?
COACH KELLY: Well, when you know have to prepare for triple option and the ability for the quarterback to run, you put in one less coverage to cover Michael Floyd. You put in one less blitz package to get after Tommy because you're afraid you may get caught in that when Hendrix is in the game.
So it just protects him more when you have that kind of versatility to your offense. That's what I was referring to.
Q. And this is a couple of weeks in a row where you've been able to go pretty deep on your bench. Just talk about the benefits of that, not only for guys improving but keeping them happy, feeling like they are fully invested and also maybe giving them some evidence of why they are not playing more.
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I don't know that there's ever been a question about being fully invested, but keeping them happy is certainly one of the things that as a head coach is one thing you to make sure that you're keeping your players. And those guys can make plays now. I'm not going to keep guys happy that aren't very good at playing the game. But those guys that are good players, you need to get them involved and part of your game plan. We played over 60 players and ten of them were freshmen.
So people were asking about the touchdowns that we gave up late; that wasn't our second unit out there. We had already played our second unit. They were part of our first unit. We played guys that got no work against the option because they were our third. So we got a lot of guys in there, a lot of film on a lot of different guys to evaluate and that's always a good thing.
Q. How big of a deal is that for you as coaches to have some live bullets?
COACH KELLY: It's great teaching material for Bennett Jackson and Austin Collinsworth. Those guys are going to have to play for us next year. When you get an opportunity to put them in the game, it just gives you a great opportunity as a coach to teach and build off, because as I said, they are going to be in the front line for us next year.
Q. You mentioned Manti with an ankle, can you expand on when that happened, and just it is a slight sprain, high ankle?
COACH KELLY: It's not a high ankle. He had a slight sprain on Wednesday in practice and we kept limited. But even with his limited ability, he was an impact player. He's an amazing football player. I mean, he does things each and every week that sometimes defy what the average player would be able to accomplish.
You know, he was hobbled in an offense that requires the linebacker to be integral in what happens, and he played very, very well. That's why I said it was not a high ankle sprain, and he was able to play and play effectively, but this break comes at a good time for him.
Q. You mentioned Darius playing well on the boundary; can you evaluate Jamoris.
COACH KELLY: He's going to get our defensive player award. He was our best player, and again, we had some great performances from Fleming, an outstanding performance from Tuitt, but Jamoris was outstanding playing, again Prince Shembo's position, the drop. He played that position. He played physical. He did an incredible job of slow-playing the option and giving us an opportunity to get out on the pitch. He played extremely well. And of course the two big turnovers were directly a result in him being around the ball.
Q. And on the other side, I don't know if it was their best game overall, but 19 games, it was a pretty good effort out of the offensive line.
COACH KELLY: Each and every week when you can protect quarterback at the level that we do, and I don't know what the numbers are relative to sacks, and there are very, very few; but to run the ball the past two weeks for over 250 yards, that's about as complete as it gets for an offensive line.
Q. I tried to answer you about Chris Watt every other week, one of his better weeks, seemed like he kind of dominated --
COACH KELLY: He's a very physical player. And he gets better each and every week. Again he's a first-year starter for us, so it doesn't surprise us that he gets better each and every week. He's got a great personality and he's locked in. I can go over and talk to the offensive line and look each one of those guys in the eye and they know what's going on out there. That's a great thing for a coach be do be able to go to the offensive line. And when we say something, you're getting great feedback, and Chris is one of those five guys that's able to do that.
Q. Midway point in the season, bye coming up, if you can evaluate the way the freshmen have played so far.
COACH KELLY: Wow, where do I start. Let's start defensively. Obviously Tuitt and Lynch are great freshmen. I wouldn't put that tag on them as seniors, but as true freshmen, they played great. They made mistakes but you can see that they are going to be a great building block for us.
George Atkinson on offense has provided a great spark for us on the kickoff return team. I think if you continue to look at freshmen in terms of their impact, along the line, Ben Koyack has done a very nice job in our tight end set coming in and providing us really some solid play when he lost Mike Ragone, who is an outstanding blocker. Chase Hounshell played very, very well for us at 39 snaps; that's a lot of work when you talk about week six, and his physical conditioning was outstanding. Kyle Brindza has been pretty good and kicking the football, the number of touchbacks, that's really impacted what we've done.
You know, Troy Niklas, he comes in and has to start against a pretty good team against Pittsburgh and came in and has done a great job for us.
So a lot of freshmen, a lot of guys that are getting in there and helping us. Cam McDaniel on special teams has been outstanding for us. Again that's a lot of true freshmen. Ishaq Williams, you look at what Ishaq has done, he has not gotten as many snaps as Lynch, but you can see him coming each and every week. How's that so far?
Q. Sounds like a bunch, thank you. With the bye week coming off up, how do you stray to sustain the offensive momentum?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think Tuesday and Wednesday we'll make sure that we get some good work in. It will be fast-tempo-ed, ones versus ones. I think that's something that obviously I believe will help us and then on Monday we'll get an extra day of preparing against USC.
So with Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, you know, really six days of work, I feel pretty good that that will keep us at the level we need to be.
Q. And not sure if this has been brought up but any chance of Everett playing hoops this year?
COACH KELLY: You know, it really depends on some of the things that we talked about privately. Everett and I have made an agreement relative to basketball and he's got to take care of those things first before we entertain basketball.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports